For more than 10 years, we’ve had wonderful writers who have shared their love of books and the Bible through the writing of our Narrative and Revised Common Lectionary Links. To help you as we transition to a searchable archive with no new content, several of them agreed to share the processes they used to develop Links. We hope their insights and experience will prove valuable to you as you make your own connections with Scripture and literature for all ages.
We’re going to divide this into two posts. Today, we will talk about where we always begin – with Scripture. In addition to suggestions for how to approach a text, we will provide some resources that have been particularly helpful to our writers in thinking about Biblical passage. We will look at finding book resources in our post next Friday, May 8.
Begin with Scripture. Note general themes or big ideas, recognizing that you will almost never find a book that exactly matches a Bible passage, but you can usually find several that can link with an overarching theme or idea.
For this stage, a Bible is all you need. Lectio Divina is one way to begin to immerse yourself in a text. In this approach, you are looking for the way the passage speaks to you personally, but having a personal engagement with the text is also helpful as you begin thinking of others who will hear it too.
But whether or not you use Lectio Divina as a way to read Scripture prayerfully, all of our writers said reading each passage multiple times opens you up to new ideas that emerge each time. Josh suggests reading the passage with an eye towards what you might say to a child about that passage, and Sara Anne suggests reading passages from several Sundays at a time so you are alert to similar themes that may come up in future Sundays. Noell reminds us that it is important to remember that there may be multiple ideas in each text and you cannot pick a book to meet every one of those ideas. In this first stage, you may want to take note of all of the ‘big ideas’ and themes you have found. This will be helpful when you begin your search for books.
The Common English Bible, a translation finished in 2011 and designed to combine accuracy in translation with a comfortable reading level for more than half of all English speakers, is a particularly good Bible to use in reading Scripture and thinking about how a variety of ages might engage with a text.
Read commentaries and sermons. Your job is not to fully exegete each passage in order to write a sermon or develop a comprehensive lesson plan. But it does sometimes help to have a good sense of cultural and historical context, theology and background of a particular book of the Bible as you are looking at a specific passage. And reading sermons on a particular passage can help you think about other big ideas or themes you might not have seen in your reading.
There are two resources that our writers returned to again and again for sermon and exegetical resources. One is Working Preacher, a marvelously rich resource offered to the church by Luther Seminary. Here you will find commentary on both Revised Common and Narrative Lectionary passages, and other content that may be helpful to you. You will find their content quoted and linked to in many of our Lectionary Links.
The other is Feasting on the Word, edited by David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. This 12 volume set is not free and not easily accessible online unless you have privileges at a theological library that gives access to a variety of patrons. Each year of the Revised Common Lectionary has 4 volumes so if you buy the books, it can take up a lot of space on your bookshelf! It is also available as a Kindle download for slightly less than buying a hard copy. But each passage of the Revised Common Lectionary is seen through an exegetical, theological, homiletical and pastoral lens and it is one of the best commentary series written. It is well worth a purchase for a church library.
One other resource that was helpful to one of our writers was The Westminster Guide to the Books of the Bible by William M. Ramsay. When looking at several weeks in which all passages are from a particular book of the Bible, it was very helpful to read an overview of that book to understand the cultural and historical context in which the book was written. Knowing that frequently led to some thematic understandings of the passage as the earliest hearers might have experienced it.
On Monday, we’ll look at finding children’s books to complement the big themes you’ve discovered.
Thanks to Joshua Andrzejewski, Sara Anne Berger, Ann Knox and Noell Rathbun for sharing their approaches to writing Lectionary Links with our readers.